Taunggyi GardenTaunggyi, the capital city of Shan State in the eastern part of Myanmar, is know for its scenic beauty and pleasant climate. The weather is cool all the year round and the area is colorful with lovely flowers, pine trees and green orchard. Being situated over 1400 meters above sea-level, Taunggyi is ideal for holiday-makers during the summer time.
How to get there
Myanmar Airways and Air Mandalay, Yangon Airways operate scheduled flights for tourists to Bagan/Nyaung Oo, Mandalay and Heho (Taunggyi) during tourist season. Tickets are available at the respective Airways offices in Yangon and major tourist centers By overland, Express Trains to Mandalay or Yangon stop at Thazi junction, from where one can take a regular train or bus to Taunggyi. Visitors are advised to check with Tourist Information Services for flight/ train/ bus schedules.
It is the most fascinating place to watch the daily life of the minorities and their activities. One will be un-forgettable to see the flock of the tribals or ethnic people who come down the market to sell their luscious vegetables, fruits, and flowers at every five days market.
It is an ethnographic museum in which one can see the life-size statues of minorities with the respective colorful dressing, their traditional weapons and utilities in addition to the dress of the late Shan Sawbwars (Dukes or Lords). It opens from 09:30 to 15:30 to except Saturdays and Sundays.
Monestry in Nyaung ShweNyaungshwe is the start for a visit to Inle Lake. The lakeshore and lake islands bear villages on stilts mostly inhabited by Inthar people. This ethnic group has migrated the region from the Tanintharyi peninsula in southern Myanmar. The Inthar settled in the area between the fourteenth and the eighteenth century. Their way of life is closely connected to the lake. They build their houses and pagodas on stilts in the water, grow their fruit and vegetables in floating gardens and harvest fish with cone-shaped nets stretched tautly over wood and bamboo frames. They engage in many home industries like weaving, woodcarving and forging (precious) metal. Many Inthar are buddhists and famous for their religious festivals and boat contests. There are approximately one hundred buddhist kyaungs around the lake and perhaps one thousand stupas. The Inthar are related to the Bamar people and dress just like them. Their customs and traditions are very much the same. They also speak the same language although they use different words for some objects.
Near Nyaungshwe there are some peaceful PaO vilages. The women wear dark blue or indigo clothes and colourful tubans. The villagers are very religious farmers and always busy. They grow wheat and rice as well as many kinds of fruits and vegetables, tea and coffee, not to mention lots of garlic. The main source of income for them however is the cultivation of leaves for the cheroots or Burmese cigars. Until recently they also cultivated poppies although they never engaged in the opium business. Their fields are clean and their houses are elegant, surrounded by colourful plants and trees with flowers. The interior of their house is sober decorated. On the wall there are pin-up pictures from a calendar or a magazine and a small buddhist shrine. The room has no furniture like a chair or a table. They sit and sleep on the floor. They keep their personal belongings behind a curtain in the bedroom. The Pao are good merchants and tradesmen. The village has a shop and many agricultural companies.
Far away from Nyaungshwe there are some Padaung villages. The Padaung are an ethnic minority of seven thousand people living only in this area. The women wear heavy brass rings around their neck. They are called long necks because the rings push the shoulder bone downward which seems to make the neck longer. Some Padaung families live separate from their tribal village in or near Nyaungshwe. It is not sure whether they have left their village voluntarily. Local people tell that they take good care of the Padaung families. They welcome foreign visitors in their courtyard if they pay an entrance fee. Only a small part of these revenues goes to the Padaung families. By selling textiles and jewelry the Padaung women try to make a living. They pose reluctantly in front of a camera and show little enthusiasm. What ever may have been an interesting social experiment has turned into a bizarre tourist attraction.
The ancient village of Indein on the western shore of Inle Lake used to be the seat of a government official in the time of the Shan kings. The official was a revenue collector of a lesser rank. The village is situated at the foot of a hill. On top of the hill is Shwe Inll Thein at the end of a long covered walkway with over four hundred wooden columns. The collection of weather-beaten stupas from the sixteenth and the seventeenth century has so far escaped restoration. The temple complex has nice stucco reliefs and devas or divine creatures and chinthes or griffins among numerous stupas. Many statues were robbed or damaged in the course of time because of unscrupulous traders and bad weather conditions. The slim design of the stupas is a clear testimony of former Shan architecture. Some of them still have their original plaster decorations while the metal hti on top is torn and twisted. From the temple complex there are great views across the natural environment of the lake down below and the hills up above. Local children have chosen the complex as their playground and are eager to pose for a picture.
Inle Lake, the Jewel of Shan State, is located about 30 km to the south of Taunggyi. This vast, beautiful and picturesque Lake, sheltered among the hazy blue mountains of 1524 meters, stretches 22.4 km long and 10.2 km wide. The lake itself is about 900 meters above sea-level and studded with floating islands.Inle Lake is famous for its unique one-leg rowers, floating villages and colorful markets. Ywama, the site of every five days floating "markets" and Inle Kaungdaing Spa are the places to be visited. Inle silk is quite popular in Myanmar and hand-looms silk weaving can studied at Inpaw-Khon village.
The celebrated Phaung-Daw-Oo Pagoda is situated in this Lake. Its festival is full of pageantry and ceremonial splendor that held once a year in October. There is the one special thing very peculiar and different from other countries. During the Pagoda Festival, the traditional unique one-leg rowers boat races is the most fascinating events for all the visitors far and near. It can only be seen during the festival of Phaung-Daw-Oo Pagoda that held in mid October.
Phaung-Daw-Oo Pagoda Entrance Fee -US$ 5 (pay in kyats at current exchange rate)
Inle Lake Entrance Fee -US$ 5 (pay in kyats at current exchange rate)
Katkku PagodaKakku Pagoda, a hidden treasure and unusual, magnificent collections of Buddhist Stupa unheard of Historians lays in the deepest Pa-oh territory, 26 miles south of Taungyi, the Capital of Shan State. More than two thousand Stupas (Chettias) are packed in ranks covering an area of approximately a square Kilometer apparently unknown to outside world. Pa-oh people near and far usually flocks to this religious complex with hundreds of bullock carts to participate the annual pagoda festival that holds in the mid of March (Harvest Festival). The Kakku pagoda festival also draws thousand of pilgrims from all part of the Shan State.
Once there was a Buddhist Shan couple that was very pious devotees lived in a small hurt nearby the hillside. They were living out off small cultivation, and they ever thought to extend their cultivation, but the nearby land is covered with big trees, and full of bushes that made the couple unable to widen their cultivation. In one evening they came out their hurt to watch the sunset, thereafter they saw a glisten light coming out from the bushes. Hurry, they went back to their hurt, brought the shovel and spade to dig the spot from which the light coming out. The couple dogged the earth very deeply, but their search was in a vain for a long time. At that time there was a flock of jungle pigs looking for food. A pig out of the flock came near the couple and helped them by digging the earth with her noose. Eventually, the couple discovered the Buddha Statues made by Gold and Silver right on the spot where the glisten light coming out. The next day, the couple built a small pagoda named “Wet Ku”, meaning the help of pig, in which the gold and silver Buddha statues are sealed up in a relic chamber. As the time passed by, the name Wet Ku, then changed in to “Kak Ku” or Kakku.
There are no documentary records at present to highlight the first noble founder of this pagoda. According to the legend, there were more than thousand Pagodas at the site and two big staircases coming up from the northern and southeastern side of the Pagodas from the valley. The legend continues that the big bell which sound could be heard from miles away was also hung in the complex of the Pagoda. Unfortunately, the Chinese invaders brought it long time ago.
Kakku lies 26 miles south of Taungyi, sharing border with Naungmon to the east. To the west there lies a blue and hazy Khe-Le mountain range stretching from North to South and the elevation of which is 1300 meter above the sea level.
Kakku area is covered by Pa-oh villages especially stretching along on both sides of the main road from North to South. To the east around Naungmon, a few of Shan Nationals are also inhabited. By the population more than 30000 peoples live in and around that area of nearly 1700 Sq Kilometers would tend to have low density of population in Kakku area.
Thousands of Pagodas with various shapes and descriptions dotted within Kakku Pagoda Complex are the main attraction. However there are many other attractions, which in combination of impressions make a visit to Kakku a great experience.First of all, the beautiful landscape in which the pagodas are set and small winding roads leading to the complex permitting a close observation of the vegetation and cultivation practices also magnificent. The final attraction is to study the daily life of Pa-oh tribal and their culture, their villages line up along the main road.
Actually trekking trips in this area for the foreign travelers would really be a new experience with an extensive range of possibilities. For example, trekking from Kyauktaing, a Shan village on the eastern shore of Inle Lake, one will come across clay pot making, then crossing the rugged mountain terrain a small town is there said to be the model and typical town of Pa-oh leaders' residence. It is also the administrative center for the Po-oh territory later sometime in the future. All Nature lovers, or bird-watchers would enjoy passing through Pa-oh villages, seeing the ins and outs of the community and the way that they earn their living. Htine, a small village located on the highest peak of the mountain is the good sport to view the panorama of the environment. In order to grab all the possibilities, features, we would like to propose you 2 days-1 Night trekking starting from Nampan village.
Palaung in KalawThe little town of Kalaw sits high on the western edge of the Shan Plateau. It was a popular hill station in the British days and it still has an atmosphere reminiscent of the colonial era. In the surrounding hills around Kalaw there are several villages of the Palaung tribe. The Palaung women wear traditional costumes which they wear mainly at special occasions like the tazaungdaing. This festival is very popular in Shan state where people let a paper balloon rise up into he sky which is lit by a candle. At the festival the Palaung villagers get together in their community centre where they welcome foreign visitors. Dressed for the occasion the women wear a traditional costume consisting of a dark coloured jacket and a red striped longyi. Married women wrap their heads with colourful scarves and wear a cane belt arount their waist.
A trekking to the Palaung villages leads through the hills around Kalaw. The terrain is mostly waste land. Many trees were cut down. The Palaung tribes near Kalaw practice slash-and-burn agriculture. They grow rice and vegetables in the valleys, tea and coffee on the hill slopes. But their main source of income is thanaq-hpeq a kind of leaf which is used for the fabrication of cheroots or Burmese cigars. In the village of Ywathit some Palaung tribals have made a workshop underneath their stilted houses for drying the leaves in a special oven. At the time of the tazaungdaing festival the villagers are not working. They are together in their community centre where they listen to the sermon of a buddhist preacher. Afterwards they have a cup of tea or coffee together and they smoke a good cigar. The women wear traditional clothes consisting of a dark coloured jacket and a red striped longyi. They are eager to show the workshop where they dry the leaves for their cigars.
The village of Tayaw has approximately three hundred residents. Some Palaung families in this village still live together in a traditional long house. Each family has its own hearth for cooking and separate sleeping compartments for the parents. The children sleep on a mat on the floor. Large families with eight or more children are no exception. The inhabitants of the long house hang maize to the ceiling to let it dry. Beneath the long house pigs and chickens root in the ground looking for food. Only the well to do villagers like the headman have their own house. At the time of the tazaungdaing festival the villagers come together in their community centre. Outside the children have fun with musicians who sing and dance to the beat of drums and cymbals. They lure the other villagers to come outside and have a look. For the occasion the women in this village wear their traditional dress of a dark coloured jacket and a red striped longyi.Unmarried women have a black velvet hat resembling a tangerine and decorated with multi-coloured tassels. However they do not wear them on their heads. Instead they try to sell them to foreign visitors. It is a clear sign that these villagers have discovered tourism as a source of income.The Palaung villagers of hinkagone lead a poor life. At the time of the tazaungdaing festival they keep on working to make a living. The main road through the village is still a quagmire one month after the end of the wet season. Tree trunks along the road help the villagers to keep their feet dry on the way to their home. The trunks are piled up against the fence of the houses and the courtyards along the road. An old woman sits on the porch of a stilted house mending her clothes, while another woman moves a wooden beam up and down with her feet to stamp wheat stalks. Some young women walk down the muddy road with firewood in a basket on their back. The basket is tied to their forehead with a ribbon for a better balance of the load. The villagers have no time to welcome the foreign visitors. The women do not wear traditional dress despite the tazaungdaing festival.
Around Kalaw there are some Danu villages as well. The Danu have no traditional dress any more. At the time of the tazaungdaing festival the women of the village Ywapu wear a colourful longyi with a floral motif. On their head they wear a scarf in a matching colour. The older women in the village wear clothes with dark and sober colours. Ywapu is not far from the railway which leads to the station in Kalaw. The villagers make a good use of its unique location to sell their products at the local market of Kalaw. In Ywapu various baskets with cabbages and vegetables are ready for transport to Kalaw. With some good fortune these products are sold at a good price even before they reach the railway station. Many tribals from the surrounding villages walk to the station with merchandise in the baskets on their back like cheroots or cigars, flowers and presents for the children. Among them are many PaO women with or without their family looking for a good bargain at the local market.
Pindaya CavePindaya, situated at the foot of Mene-Taung Range about 45 km north of Kalaw, is a picturesque place. This small town is famous for its caves (Pindaya Cave) in which thousands of centuries-old Buddha Images are seated. The images are of various sizes, some carved in the face of rock and some deposited in niches in the walls. The road from Kalaw to Pindaya (38 km) passes through a countryside of magnificent scenic beauty, and foreigners said it is pretty similar to the road to Switzerland
Pindaya Cave Entrance Fee - US$ 5 (pay in kyats at current exchange rate)
Colorful and full of life, the markets are attraction for visitors in search of native life and souvenirs. Hand-woven Inle bags and shawls, Shan jackets., Zine-me longyis and other cotton materials, hand-made bamboo parasols, earthen pots with beautiful designs, bamboo hats and wooden sandals are available.